Cairo Protests: It Can Take Out Morsi, But the Military is a Dangerous Savior For Egypt
Egypt is again showing its ability to shock the world by manifesting incredible amounts of humanity onto its streets and squares. A spate of recent pro- and anti-government protests has crescendoed over the weekend, and the country has erupted on Sunday and Monday. Millions of people, by the army's count, have again flooded public spaces in many of Egypt's main cities, most of them demanding the resignation of Mohammed Morsi. The Cairo headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi's political party, has been torched and ransacked, and the party's deputy chairman, Khairat al-Shater, seems to have been attacked. There have been some reports of violence between protesters and supporters, but not many. Nevertheless, the army has now arrogated for itself the role of arbiter and, incredibly, given Morsi 48 hours to quell the unrest politically or else step down as president.
Morsi's short, year-long tenure in office has not gone well. Last December, he pushed through a new constitution that most Egyptians opposed, and that was mandated by an unconvincing referendum (only about 30% of the population participated). This earned him many dictatorial accusations. But mostly, he has failed to effect any sort of economic improvement. Egypt's economy is in shambles, and the all-important tourism sector has been all but wiped out. Morsi has not heeded the IMF's infamous calls for economic "reform," and thus has not secured enough foreign investment to keep the country fiscally solvent. The only alternative to that route is to invent a new economic paradigm that doesn't involve the globalized economy, which he understandably hasn't been able to do, either. Egypt is an ocean of poverty, even moreso now than under Mubarak.
Morsi's defenders have argued that he was democratically elected (indeed he was) and thus has a legal mandate. But his detractors will quickly point out that he prorogued parliament to ram through an Islamist constitution, and that this has dissolved his mandate. Based on these abuses and the country's abysmal condition, the people have a strong case for Morsi's ouster. Egyptians have become aware of their power, and no leader should think that he or she can brush them off. Nor should Egyptians be brushed off, because they suffer immensely. Morsi has not brought improvement, and should respect the will of the majority.
Despite this, the aggressive behavior of the Egyptian military is alarming. They have been very quick in this case to intervene in the political process in a massive way. If Morsi is forced to step down at the behest of the army, a dangerous precedent may be set in Egypt. Doubtless, some Egyptians will think the army is performing a great service to the country; but the next few days could prove destructive to Egypt's future stability if the army becomes the principal agency of Egypt's political process.